The McPhersons Have Come Full Circle

April 13, 2010

Dr. Richard 'Mac' McPherson '50 and his wife, Dorothy 'DJ' (Werstler) '49 have come full circle. Once classmates, where they met in Professor Robert Powell's religion class, the McPhersons continue to make a major impact on the campus of their alma mater.

The McPhersons have been consistent supporters of Mount Union for many years. In 1996, they provided a major gift to name the McPherson Center for Human Health and Well-Being. Recently, they established the Dr. Richard C. and Dorothy J. McPherson Endowed Scholarship, first awarded to a student during the 2006-2007 academic year.

Looking back, they are very proud of their connection to Mount Union. 'Mount Union gave me focus and direction and the opportunity to pursue many different disciplines,' said DJ. 'The College offered me the chance to seek my professional career as a high school teacher.'

It is no secret that the McPhersons have dedicated their lives to helping those around them. Mac served as a surgeon at the Lafayette, Indiana, Arnett Clinic for more than 42 years, while DJ has been a volunteer in the Lafayette community, holding leadership positions in education, at their church and in hospital services. They decided to support the Wellness Center because its purpose was so similar to that of Arnett Clinic. Thanks to the McPhersons, the McPherson Center has offered Mount Union students, faculty and staff the opportunity to achieve good health and overall well-being for more than a decade.

Philanthropy is nothing new to the McPhersons since years ago, in their community of Lafayette, they established the Lafayette Symphony Orchestra Youth String Scholarship Fund, which awards 15 scholarship annually. Also, near Lafayette, they endowed a YMCA Camp Tecumseh Summer Camp Nurse program and provided a cabin at Camp Tecumseh in honor of their children: son Gregg who lives in Muncie, Indiana and daughter Kim who lives in Larned, Kansas.

Mount Union appealed to DJ because it was so close to her hometown of Hartville. She had been searching for a small, church-related college. 'I graduated from high school in a class of 24 students,' she said. 'I could not see myself going to a large school.'

When Mac served in the U.S. Maritime Service from 1944 to 1946 as a Pursuer/Pharmacist Mate on a liberty and victory ship, he decided to become a physician and chose Mount Union because of its close proximity to his hometown. He commuted to college from North Georgetown, where his parents owned and operated a small country store. In 1995, he was honored as an Outstanding Alumni Member by the Goshen High School Alumni Association.

'Mount Union set the foundation for my continuing education,' said Mac. 'My hope is that many more students from Mount Union will be motivated to go into advanced fields of medical study to serve the nation's future health needs.'

Mac offered praise for the many quality professors across the spectrum of liberal arts disciplines from whom he learned. Chemistry professors Dr. Louis A. Pappenhagen and Dr. William M. Morgan were among those most influential in his decision to go on to medical school. At Mount Union, Mac served as a chemistry lab assistant for Dr. Morgan.

Other professors who significantly impacted Mac included biology professors Ohmer H. Engle and Dr. Arne V. Hunninen as well as Dr. Eric A. Eckler, professor of English. 'Professor Eckler was responsible for improving my writing skills,' said Mac. 'I credit him with molding me into a good grammarian.' Mac fondly recalled one particular day outside Memorial Hall when Dr. Eckler, who was driving past, stopped just to let Mac know he had received an 'A' for his semester grade.

It was during Mac's first semester at Mount Union that he and DJ initially crossed paths. Mac was piling on the credit hours in order to catch up (he completed all but six hours of required courses in two-and-a-half years). 'I met Mac in Professor Powell's 'The Nature of Study and Worship' class when I was a second semester sophomore,' said DJ. 'The classroom was on the west side of Chapman Hall in the afternoon; we were seated alphabetically, and I was sitting directly in the sun. I asked the professor to change seats; and, since someone whose last name began with an 'M' had recently changed classes, Mac and I were seated together.'

The two soon began talking and spending lots of time together. 'Mac impressed me by taking me to see the Ink Spots in Youngstown and Harry James at Idora Park in Youngstown, as well as to my first drive-in movie in Canton,' said DJ. They became inseparable; and, after both graduated from Mount Union, they were married on June 10, 1951.

DJ's first teaching position was at East Canton Osnaburg Schools. When Richard was accepted into medical school at The Ohio State University, they relocated to Columbus. DJ then taught at Indianola Junior High School, while Mac attended medical school. Mac earned a master's degree in physiology in 1953 and an MD degree in medicine in 1954.

When he was called into the Air Force, Mac took DJ and their young son along to Turkey, where he served from 1957 to 1959 in Ankara and Izmir. For much of his stay, he was the only Armed Forces surgeon in Turkey.

Having completed his internship in Akron and an additional four years of general surgery residency at The Ohio State University, he earned a master of medical sciences degree in 1960. Mac then served as a faculty member at the University of Louisville, Kentucky, Medical School Department of Surgery. Wanting to enter into private practice, the McPhersons relocated to Lafayette, Indiana in 1963, where Mac devoted his career as a surgeon to the Arnett Clinic until his retirement just last year.

During the 2007 Mount Union Commencement ceremonies, Mac was awarded an honorary doctor of science degree. 'One becomes a member of the Mount Union family by receiving this degree,' said Mac. 'To be associated with the great people of the past, who have received an honorary degree at Mount Union, is indeed a great honor.'

Now, through the McPhersons' generous gifts to the College, they are continuing the tradition of a liberal arts education by offering present and future students the opportunity to become physically, mentally and socially sound to achieve their dreams.

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